When Peter Way left for a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, he never thought he'd return with the newest member of his family.
In November 2002, Way was sent with the Army Reserve 360th Civil Affairs Division to a Ranger-occupied base in the Shomali Plains, north of Kabul.
That's where Shomali, a young Anatolian shepherd mix, found Way, who moved to Martinez with his family from North Carolina about six months ago.
"We took over a base from the Rangers,'' said Way, who served as a medic for the unit. "Being Americans, we tend to like dogs. She wandered up, and the Rangers had started feeding her. She was a puppy. We took over the base and she was (called) ... Cujo. She just latched onto me."
Way, who is a nurse practitioner with the Medical College of Georgia's Operational Medicine Program, was charged with such health issues as sanitation, infection and bug control. He had learned the basics of veterinary care from a friend and cared for the base's three unofficial dogs that were used for companionship and guarding.
"Most of them (the dogs) naturally hate Afghans, and it is a mutual thing," Way said. His wife and daughter gave Cujo a more feminine name, Shomali, for her homeland.
He said Shomali recognized a difference among American soldiers, and it wasn't long before she was sleeping in the mud hut that Way called his room. When Way prepared to head home in November 2003, he had to leave quickly because his father was dying. He said he didn't want to leave Shomali, but getting her to his North Carolina home at the time wasn't an easy task.
Way obtained Shomali a health certificate from a veterinarian and had to pay the Afghanistan minister of agriculture to have the dog released from the country.
Shomali had to stay an extra week in a house run by U.S. counterintelligence forces before she left on a plane to Germany.
She was eventually flown to Germany and then onto Charlotte, N.C., where Way and his wife, Anne, waited.
Shomali had to adapt to a new landscape that was much different from the cold, rocky mountainous region of Afghanistan.
"We walked out (of the Charlotte airport terminal), but she would not get near the grass," Way said. At first, Shomali preferred to sleep on the gravel driveway at his home. "It took her a few weeks before she would step on it."
These days in Martinez, Way said, Shomali fits in perfectly with his family, including his daughter, Laura, 10, and son, Joe, 7. He said Shomali sleeps with Laura part of the night before curling up on a pillow next to his bed for the remainder of the night.
Some boundaries have been set, including an electronic invisible fence that was needed inside the Ways' 6-foot-tall privacy fence in their Barrington subdivision backyard.
For the most part, though, Shomali seems to be adapting to life in suburbia, enjoying runs in the neighborhood with Way, who also volunteers as a medic for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team.
One day, Way said, he even hopes to train Shomali to be able to track people, bombs or drugs for law enforcement.
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